The year was 1951. I had just moved to Anderson from Minnesota. And being a year before the next presidential election, candidates were campaigning for mayor of Anderson.
G. Lester McDonald was mayor at the time. I wasn't familiar with him except to know he was a Democrat. Sentiment that year was moving strongly in the other direction, and Republican Noland C. Wright, running under the slogan “Vote Wright,” was the heavy favorite. This despite a tradition that the union vote, a major factor in a factory town such as Anderson, was said to favor the Democrats.
One political maxim, however, says that all politics is local. So it has been in Anderson, whether because of another tradition of conservative Hoosier values or because voters decline to put their full trust behind either local party organization. In any case there has been roughly an even number of Republican and Democrat mayors (along with one from the Temperance Party) in the city's history.
Wright did win the 1951 election. Four years later he was defeated by Democrat Ralph Ferguson.
Mom could not vote in that election, having moved too late to qualify for registration.
Republican sentiment was still running high locally in 1952. Dwight D. Eisenhower's presidential nomination had energized Republicans, and Ike's broad coattails portended an end to the Democratic gubernatorial leadership as well with George Craig running on the GOP ticket. Democrat Henry F. Schricker was completing his second term in the Statehouse.
Two notable appearances occurred in Anderson that fall. President Harry S. Truman, having announced he wasn't running again but actively campaigning for Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson, came through downtown Anderson on one of his famous “whistle stop” tours. The start of school was delayed so students could see the president as he spoke from the back platform of the train. I do recall him receiving a significant amount of heckling from part of the crowd.
Then GOP Senator Bill Jenner, running for reelection, staged a rally in the National Guard Armory, then located downtown at Eighth and Main streets. I recall a bunch of us carrying Jenner signs and waving them lustily during the speech, one of the most electrifying I can remember from my childhood. Jenner, a popular conservative in Indiana, easily won another term in the Senate.
It took a while for me to become familiar with state and local leadership. One elected official I do remember was Sheriff Joe Brogdon. A Democrat, he ran for reelection in 1954 against J. Ward Starr and won easily. After laying out a couple of terms as required by law, he ran again a decade or so later and won again, although dying in office before his term expired.
The names and faces have changed over the years. But politics has always been interesting, and certainly volatile.
Jim Bailey’s reflections on Anderson’s past appear on Saturday. His regular column appears on Thursday. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.